Kevin Cordon was only 12 when he left his parents behind in rural Guatemala in search of the badminton education that could fulfil his dream of competing at the Olympic Games.
On Wednesday, inside a vast arena on the outskirts of Tokyo, Cordon finally felt as though all the years of stern advice and struggle had paid off.
“My parents didn’t know anything about badminton, but they said, ‘If you want to be a badminton player and make your dream come true, go to the capital city’,” Cordon said.
“I went on my own; I was alone. The federation said there were lots of small kids with big talent, and they moved us to the capital and said, ‘OK, we will give you training, school, food, accommodation’. That is why I decided to go.
“But my mother had the last word. She said, ‘OK then go but be careful: no alcohol, no drugs’. After 20 years, my family is happier than me.”
Cordon was always going to be different from the other kids in La Union, a small town four hours east of Guatemala City.
“My father used to play football, and at that time one of the best players in the World Cup was Kevin Keegan from England, so he said ‘If I have a kid, his name will be Kevin’. So that’s why my name is an English name.
“I also wanted to be a footballer and then badminton just came into my life. I had my dream in Beijing (2008) and now at my fourth Olympics it’s still the same dream, only now I’m enjoying it more.”
And with good reason: Cordon reached the knockout rounds after upending the No.8 seed, Ng Ka Long Angus in his final men’s singles group match at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old then defeated Mark Caljouw in the last 16 and moved to within a victory of only a second ever Olympic medal for Guatemala after beating Heo Kwanghee 21-13 21-18 yesterday.
“Can you believe I’m in the semifinals?” he asked after victory. “This feeling is just amazing. I’m still a kid, playing like a kid, having fun.”
Next up for the world No.59 is a semifinal today against No.4 seed Viktor Axelsen, who again breezed through his match to make it eight games won and none conceded at Tokyo 2020.
The 27-year-old Dane was full of praise for Cordon.
“I don’t think anybody would have guessed that Kevin would have done so well. He’s an awesome guy with an awesome story, but I’m going to do my best to end that story.”
Even if Axelsen does end it, Cordon has already written the story of Tokyo 2020 with his run to the semifinal.